Surprise Or Shock?

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 1Thessalonians5:1,2NIV

It’s the difference between a surprise and a shock. When a husband books a table at his wife’s favourite restaurant, and arranges for her favourite flowers to be presented, that’s a nice surprise. But if that same husband phones his wife, and starts with the words, “Don’t worry honey, I’m at A&E but I’m ok….” that is a shock! Both are unexpected, but one is a pleasant experience, while the other is certainly not! We all would prefer the surprise over the shock any day! 

These verses tell us clearly that when Jesus returns, some will be happily surprised, but many will find it a real shock. The Christian, like everyone else, doesn’t know when the Lord will return, but he or she knows He will keep His promise. The person who has hidden from this truth will be shocked to the core because we will all enter our eternal destination, and all the excuses in the world won’t help.

Because the Bible is so clear about this, do not believe or give time to any so called religious leader who claims to have figured it out. The Jehovah’s Witnesses to name just one have had a few  failed attempts to guess the date, and you will be aware of others who did the same. These sects and leaders are charlatans.

I would suggest that the bigger question and greatest concern is not whether we know the time and date when Jesus will return, but if we are ready for that great event? For some it will come as a dreaded shock, while for others a happy surprise. Where do you and I stand then?

A Sad Heart

‘Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.’ Nehemiah2:2NIVUK

Nehemiah had good reason to be sad because the city he loved was in ruins, including the great walls. There is always a reason for our sad heart, although we may not know or recognise the root cause.

Depression is another word we could use. There was a time in my younger years, when I had so much to learn, that I believed no truly believing Christian should ever be depressed. After all, we had the greatest truth of eternal life in our hearts, so why would we be unhappy to the point of being depressed?

We are told in Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Since our gracious God will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more pain, we can take it that some of God’s people got into heaven with a sad heart. Some would clearly be depressed. The circumstances of life here on this earth can make us very happy, but there are times when life can make our heart heavy and sad, just like Nehemiah, but for very different reasons but every reason valid in the sight of God. The prophet had known for some time about the dilapidated state of his beloved city, but it took a while to get around to doing something about it. The other thing was that he asked for help. We are not good at asking for help when it comes to the illness of depression, are we? 

I do not want to enter heaven with a sad, depressed heart, so while there is time on this earth, I must work my way through the issue with God’s help, and counselling if necessary. It is fair to say that most people who are depressed have an inkling why. All they/we/I have to do is face it head on, ask for help, and deal with it. For anyone out there who knows this feeling, they will also know that is so much easier said than done! That my brother and sister is a truth worth noting, if not for yourself, then for your siblings in Christ!

Doing to Others

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew7:12NIV

I well remember when one of my young daughter’s Sunday School teachers came to tell us when she had asked who remembered the verse from the previous week, my girl said “do to others the things they do to you”. We smile now, but how often do we see the verse like that, even as adults?

Jesus had a bigger theme in His mind when he taught that we should treat others the way that we would want to be treated ourselves. You know the old saying, “revenge is a dish best served cold”? This is seen as normal and funny in our culture, and it shows how far we have come from the true and right attitude to love and forgiveness.

Do we really want to forgive? Or do we just want to get even? After all, revenge is easier and normal, unlike forgiveness which is only for the weak, right? Wrong. Oh so wrong!! It takes courage to forgive, especially when you know in your heart that you have done no wrong, and the ‘problem’ lies with the person you are forgiving. Revenge is a vicious cycle, but forgiveness comes with a promise. Don’t take my word for it, look what the apostle Peter says about the subject. Your forgiveness does not go unrewarded!

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1Peter3:9NIV

Imbalance

Have you noticed the ‘all or nothing’ approach and argument used by some in defence of their own thoughts, feelings, or beliefs? It is readily seen in politics, and if you watch Prime or First Minister’s Questions on TV, you will know what I mean. There is no room for the other side of the argument to be made, no matter how small. Sadly this is not confined to politics and politicians.

When we brush aside the thoughts and feelings of others at a stroke, we show how little we value that person as a whole being, and not only in the area of our differences. So is this something we should do as Christ followers, even when we believe passionately about something? We might feel our insight needs to be spoken, seen, understood, and shared with others, but does that give us the right to impose it on our friends and family, or through social media?

I do believe in one, and only one, all-or-nothing concept and it is spoken by the one who has the greatest, undisputed authority. Therefore there can be no other argument in this debate, because the Scripture says: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John14:6NIV. Case closed!

You What? Eh??

**Disclaimer: This is a personal opinion only, and not that of any individual church**

It started off as just being ‘gay’, but it has grown like Topsy (no disrespect to Topsy!) Now we have a list of godless, abnormal, unnatural words to describe the godless, abnormal, unnatural community who identify equally as LGBTQQIAAP (which at present stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies, Pansexual and constantly growing). There are so many deviations from the normal, it would be funny if not so tragic. I realise that according to the court of public opinion I am not supposed to express myself like this, and may have offended a whole 1% of the population who identify with one of these groups. Yes, that’s around 1 in 100, but we are told to give them all the space they want to be who they are, and as for those intolerant ‘straight’ people who disagree, a real hard time for being a part of the 99%. I would suggest that worse than all these, are the apologists within the Christian community who say we should accept them, come alongside them, and show them the better way. I can agree up to a point, but this is surely the start of the slippery slope which leads to acceptance without repentance, and a place of full acceptance without change, and eventual leadership in the church.

It concerns me greatly that we have a growing group of people who get lots of media airtime as being a good and positive thing, when it is self evident to the simplest of minds that the growth of this mindset and industry is a bad thing. A very bad thing. Now here’s my dilemma. As a Christian I am directed to be tolerant to, and accepting of the sinner. I think I can do that, but it gets mixed up with the mistake that I am also asked to condone and accept the sin by accepting the sinner.

Some churches in general have accepted gay marriage as equal to normal marriage. I can understand a godless, legally driven government doing this, but God’s Church? The Bible is clear, and as much as we try to tinker with interpretation, we are being forced to ignore some passages to let the tidal wave of the godless LGBTQQIAAP take part in the services as if they were repentant which we know they are not. If repentance was true, the gay title would not apply. 

(**As stated at the top of the post, this is my personal opinion only. I hope I am allowed that courtesy.**)

Groaners and Moaners

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Philippians2:14NIV

Complaining. If there was an Olympic sport in that category, someone we know, or perish the thought we ourselves, could lift the gold medal every time. We practice the art constantly, and with some conviction, to the point that we can show you the biggest culprits who effectively are our competition. We do so want to beat them into second place, so we hone our skill relentlessly and religiously.

Am I being too harsh on these complainers? On me?? When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he told them to “do everything without grumbling”. But they had a hard life under Roman control, so they had every right to feel hard done by. So we wouldn’t be surprised or judge them harshly if they did complain. But Paul, who knew a thing or two about hardships, told them in effect never to moan or complain. Was he being unreasonable?

Another person we know had every right to complain. The perfect one, Jesus, was unfairly treated, beaten, bruised, given a false trial, and ultimately crucified unjustly. But He did it on our behalf and for our salvation. The price He paid was worth it in His eyes, and let’s face it, He knew the end from the beginning because He rose from the dead and through His resurrection, we have salvation. 

Can we learn from the life of Christ Jesus? Of course we can, and we should. When we are known as a moaner or complainer, we dilute the witness of His love in our lives. We become no different from those around us, after all we all go through hard times. However, the thing that separates us is how we deal with all that life throws at us. Paul gives us a clue as to the benefits of not complaining when he continues: so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation”. Now who among us would not want God to think that of us? Next time we (yes that’s me too) feel like moaning, groaning, griping or complaining about something, don’t! Just don’t. Instead think of the God given reward!

Fear, Reverence and Respect

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'” Luke10:27NIV

‘Reverence’ is an old word which isn’t used so much today. The even older word ‘fear’ is the one used in the Bible. But what do they mean? And perhaps even more important is the question of how do we recognise irreverence when we see it? I think the lines have become blurred throughout the recent past in our Western Christian culture. 

Let’s get the dictionary definitions stated. Reverence is deep respect for someone or something. We can also define the Fear of God as referring to a specific sense of respect, awe, and submission to a deity.

 Let me hazard a suggestion that it is easier to spot irreverence than to recognise the positive side of reverence, so how about a few examples from my own experience? If we really do have a deep respect for God, would we… traipse in and out of an ongoing church worship service? Whisper loudly to the person beside or behind us? Constantly take a swig at a plastic water bottle as though our life depended on it? Decide we desperately needed to go to the bathroom half way through the sermon? You get the picture.

If we are going to show some respect for God, especially in church, we must take the responsibility seriously. There is a time for fun and laughter, even frivolity, but equally there is a time to be serious. Somehow I don’t see the angelic heavenly hosts swapping jokes or funny stories they overheard from the golf club, or the football supporters social club, so should we do it when we are in an attitude of worship in church? No, I don’t think so either!

The Magic Word

When you have young children, you always want them to grow up with good manners, so you teach them well. When given a gift, you teach and encourage them to say “thank you”. If they would like something, the magic word is “please”. You will have heard yourself say to them if it is not forthcoming voluntarily, “what’s the magic word then”? Teaching the words “please” and “thank you” is important at any age. Sadly, that is dropping from encouraged use by parents, but there is no doubt what these words mean. But I digress.

As Christians, we have come to learn another magic word. It is spoken from the pulpit, and always used to underscore a point so that there is no doubt of its veracity, or indeed the speaker’s knowledge and education. The word? Oh yes, it’s “Greek”. Fit the word “Greek” into any sermon and you have proven your research credentials and your credibility soars. 

A sad truth is that when this magic word is used, the context and meaning is always accepted fully, and without any double checking. After all, why should we double check, especially when a man or woman of integrity uses it? I recently came across a verse in the Bible which at first sight appears to suggest that we should not forsake the gathering together in church. I say “at first sight” because it was pointed out to me that the original Greek text shows a different story. One that says that we are not to forsake the gathering or unity of Christians with the Saviour. It has nothing to do with the church members. That must be true, after all the “magic word” (Greek) was used.

Fortunately, I have the resources to some of these magic words too, and it would appear that Hebrews 10:25 really does also refer to the clear instruction that we, as Christians, should not forsake the gathering of ourselves together in our place of worship. My own New Testament Greek references are complementary or at odds with the information given by someone else who has invoked the same magic word. But why? Why would someone deliberately appear to mislead in the name of the Saviour we each share and worship? Good question!

As I keep on this Christian way, some surprises have come across my path, and from some surprising people. Is it possible that just as in the world, some Christians need to feel that bit more important than others around them? Some may even want to appear more knowledgeable? Can I suggest that there is another, even stronger and better, magic word and it is “Love”? After all, we are reminded in 1 Peter 4:8 NIV to love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1Corinthians13:2NIV

An Inconvenient Truth

We would never do this ourselves, but you will know the type who talk behind other people’s back? They don’t usually know all the facts, and yet will berate something they have said, or even the way they look. No, we would never do that. And yet there are good and well meaning Christians who will talk behind other folk’s backs. Sometimes they have never met these ‘unpleasant people’ who also call themselves Christians, and probably never could because much of this happens online, and to make matters worse, they would never be in a position to say anything to their face those things they say behind their back, or phone them, or write to them. It’s sniping from a safe distance along with their own like minded friends who share their likes and dislikes. There’s a word for that. Gossip. If you can’t say something to a person’s face, or communicate it directly to them, don’t say it behind their back. It’s really quite simple, otherwise it’s just the thing of primary school playgrounds. Or as the old saying goes: “If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all.”

The internet and social media make it so easy to find those we don’t like or agree with, usually high profile megachurch TV pastors, and then let everyone know your criticisms. Everyone that is except the person they have the gripe or problem with. It’s too easy, needs no integrity, and takes no personal responsibility. Let’s make every effort to be the Christian person we say we are. So help us, Lord. 

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Ecclesiastes5:2NIV

FYI, Gossip = Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people.

A Bee In My Bunnet!

I have the proverbial ‘Bee’ in my bunnet. It’s about one of the largest religions in the world, and the way they can use and abuse their Holy Book to suit their own ends. In fact it gets so bad that they will even take offence at some things said by others who are of the same religion, but don’t read their special book in the same way. They can’t all agree on their differing interpretations, so tempers get heated, and flared to the point of mental, emotional and physical violence. Man against man, families split, and denominations divided. In extreme cases, some will even kill to defend the honour of their leader Muhammad, and his book, the Quran. However, that’s not the ‘Bee’ in my bunnet this time. 

As Christians we do a very similar thing when it comes to our treatment of the Bible, and our various interpretations. The number of denominations tell part of the story, but it can become serious to the point that some of these differences will separate men, women, families and churches. We don’t kill to show our Spiritual superiority, we just take an elitist approach and while claiming to be humble, instead show a quiet pride in our own ability to read and properly interpret Scripture verses while our lesser friends can’t. You may even hear the words, “the Bible says, and I will believe the Bible every time”, while taking a verse out of context. Doing it this way, we can look good, but even better, we can make our friends look foolish and unlearned. By acting in this immature and imperfect way, we miss the whole purpose of Jesus’ life and ministry, that God is love. Not like love, or similar to love, but IS love. We need to let that fact take hold of our heart and mind.

Clever, isn’t it? And not a drop of blood spilled. No obvious extremism, but deep rooted and deep seated differences amounting to arrogance. Enough to make us dig our heels in and hold our ground, no matter what. The strange and almost funny thing is that the biggest offenders can be those not so theologically educated, trained, or enlightened, but self taught  and tutored by other friends of like mind they value, or even online by those charlatans who have a large following. Discernment in love is a rare gift. You know what they say about propaganda. Get your story in first because there’s no such thing as bad publicity. That way, it is the hardest job for your friend to change their mind. Another phrase comes to mind, which is: “The best form of defence is attack” so when you get your story in first, the weak and gullible will follow easily. In some ways we are no different from those in the world.